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Greeff’s learning curve

By Mark Etheridge

Jean Greeff is under no illusions that he’s going to bring back a medal from the Olympic Games in London later this yearÔǪ but watch him in four years time.

The powerhouse weightlifter is certainly one for the future. At just 22 years of age he will no doubt be part of Olympic body SASCOC’s long term plans for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

For now though he’s thriving on the honour of being named in Team South Africa’s initial squad ahead of the global spectacle.

Originally from Port Elizabeth but now based in the Strand where he can access the expertise of national coach Aveenash Pandoo, Greeff has harboured Olympic ambitions for close on 10 years now. “In 2004 with the Athens Olympic Games I watched a variety of sports and developed a dream of becoming an Olympian.┬á To be part of Team South Africa is a big honour, and finally I have achieved my dream of becoming an Olympian.”

In actual fact though the family connection with weightlifting goes back a lot further than that. He told Road to London 2012: “My grandfather (Louis Fourie Greeff) was a Commonwealth Games 1954-1958 silver and bronze medalist, so ever since a young boy I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”

Pandoo reckons that his charge will gain invaluable experience in London. “He’s had a very good run of success since starting out. He got bronze at the Commonwelath Youth Games in Pune, India four years ago, and has won medals at the African Juniors, the Commonwealth weightlifting championships and has had many an SA record between 2009 and now.”

Competing in the 94kg division, Greeff’s best total is 307kg (made up of 135 for the snatch and 172kg for the clean and jerk). “We’ll be looking at surpassing that in London,” says Pandoo. “The next step towards London is a 10-day training camp in Poland [they left on Thursday]. The east European nation are among the top 10 weightlifting nations in the world so he’ll get good exposure to the big boys of the sport.

“We are currently developing a new generation of weightlifters now and at 22 Jean will be at his peak in Rio, as will Mona Pretorius, who was chosen for the Commonwealth Games in 2010 but was injured in warm-up.”

Pandoo says there will be no direct pressure on Greeff in London.

“There’ll be no medal expectations, he’s there to gain the experience, to learn and absorb the pressure of an Olympics to get an idea of what it’s likeÔǪ a brilliant opportunity going forward. We’ll probably be looking at him improving to around about 310kg or more in London.”

Pandoo says Greeff could have been at a higher level were it not for lack of funding. “He was full-time for a while and you could see a marked improvement but the fact that he’s had to go back to working for a living now has put a definite cap on his improvement for now.”

Pandoo, originally from Mauritius, certainly knows where he’s coming from, having held a Commonwealth record himself, back in 1994.

“The Olympics are not just about arriving there and participating. It’s about peaking exactly at the right moment. Everything has to be perfected down to a T. Jean will see when we get to Poland that those guys live eat and drink weightlifting 365 days a year. That’s why it’s vitally important that we get the sports academy system up and running properly in South Africa to develop our youngsters.”

Greeff’s last competition was the recent African Championships in Kenya. “Kenya as a country was quite an experience, it taught me how grateful we as South Africans should be as our country is very far advanced for an African country.

“It was a good competition, and it was fun to see some of the champions competing on the platform.┬áI personally did not have such an amazing competition day, but did at least medalled with a bronze.┬áI am glad the South African men’s team did good enough to qualify one spot for the Olympics.┬á”

As for his own thoughts on the impending Games. “My focus for the Olympics is to gain enough experience to be used for the next Olympics, which is the goal.

“Aiming for a medal is quite a long shot as the other countries, at the moment, are far ahead in experience and facilities.┬áMy hopes are to be in the top 20. My biggest opponents would be Armenia and Russia and I reckon the gold will be in the 400kg range and the bronze 390kg.”


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